Smoking with Elizabeth Ellen

Read the Story December 15, 2006

Explain the evolution of this piece, from idea through to this amazing finished flash.

Evolution, huh? Hmmm. Evolution…the honest answer is, you sit down at your computer in the morning, open up Word, and hope for the best. No, wait. That’s the pretentious answer. I don’t know. I can’t really remember what prompted the writing of this particular piece. Some days I’m pissed off. Some days I’m enamored…drunk… horny…you name it. I think on this day I had an image from a longer work in progress that I thought might make for a good flash. So, there you go. Not exactly Darwin, but I’m afraid that’s all I got.

The last word of this piece, “captivity,” captures that sense that some profound truth remains locked in that room, that broom closet, the 8X10, if only we have the power to read both the words within and the meanings without. How would you summarize this story, if someone, say an interview editor, were to ask you to do so?

Oh, I would never attempt to summarize one of my stories, particularly not one of less than three hundred words. I think that might be the death of it. (How’s that for pretentious?) I will say that this is a companion piece of sorts to a flash I wrote last month for elimae called “Lemons.” If that is of any help/interest to anyone.

Often the stories we see on similar subjects focus on the desire for sympathy and/or empathy. Yours desire something else, yes?

Do they? I’m afraid I’m not a very interesting or good interview subject. I honestly have no idea what my stories desire. I think they have an initial interest in being put down on paper and after that i think they just want me to leave them alone.

A chapbook out. Editor of Short Flight/Long Drive books. How busy are you! So how’s the chapbook doing? What’s next? And how goes it in editor’s world?

Well, the chapbook is not technically out  yet. I’m envisioning Kevin Sampsell madly stapling away in an apartment somewhere in Portland as I type this. As for Short Flight/Long Drive Books, we just wrapped up Michelle Orange’s tour for The Sicily Papers and, truthfully, I’m a little sad that it’s over. It’s a wonderful book and Michelle’s a wonderful writer. I wish the tour could have gone on indefinitely. But, in the end, we ran out of gin and so she left us; packed up her running shoes and flew back to NY.

The 2005 Edge Annual World Question (www.edge.org) asked a question that the BBC called “fantastically stimulating.” One year later, we ask you this same question: “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?”

The simple answer—the lazy answer—the most honest answer: not much. And I feel sort of bad about that. I mean, I want to believe in something. I really do. Particularly at this time of year. I think my feelings on the subject would best be expressed with a lyric from the song “Gutless” by the great rock & roll band, Hole, “I don’t really miss God but I sure miss Santa Claus.” That pretty much sums it up, you know?

About the Author:

Elizabeth Ellen is editor of Short Flight/Long Drive books (a division of Hobart publishing). Her chapbook Before You She Was a Pitbull is due out from Future Tense in December. She lives in Ann Arbor.

About the Artist:

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist (21 November 1898 - 15 August 1967).